Steven Chu

Steven Chu, who directed the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and was professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California before being appointed by President Obama to be the U.S. Energy Secretary, says white paint is what’s needed to fix global warming.

Chu, who according to the federal agency’s website, successfully applied the techniques he developed in atomic physics to molecular biology and recently led the lab in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies, has told the London Times  that by making paved surfaces and roofs lighter in color, the world would reduce carbon emissions by as much as parking all the cars in the world for 11 years.

The DOE says Chu’s areas of expertise are in atomic physics, quantum electronics, polymer and biophysics. According to the Times, he was speaking at the St. James’ Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium, in which the Times partners for media events, when he described his simple and “completely benign” … “geo-engineering” plan.

He said building codes should require that flat roofed-buildings have their tops painted white. Visible sloped roofs could be painted “cool” colors. And roads could be made a lighter color.

Chu, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997, was sworn in as energy secretary Jan. 21.

Obama said when he appointed Chu, “The future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy… Steven has blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator.”

“I think with flat-type roofs you can’t even see, yes, I think you should regulate quite frankly,” Chu said in the Times report.

And asked if governments should promote white paint as the global warming “solution,” he said, “Yes, absolutely … White roofs everywhere, yes.”

Light surfaces reflect more of the sunlight that falls on them, hardly a surprise in warmer parts of the world where walls and roofs have been whitewashed for generations.

Chu told the Times his dogma on the issue was prompted by Art Rosenfeld of the California Energy Commission, who prompted a change in that state that now requires all flat roofs on commercial buildings to be painted white.

The Times report said a year ago, Rosenfeld and several colleagues estimated changing the color of roofs in 100 of the largest cities around the world would save 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“Now, you smile, but [Rosenfeld has] done a calculation, made a paper on this, and if you take all the buildings and make their roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of color rather than a black type of color, and you do this uniformly… it’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars on the road for 11 years, you just take them off the road for 11 years,” Chu told the Times.

“Get a bucket of paint and a brush and save the planet!” wrote a participant in the news page’s forums page.

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